The land surrounding Baytown, Texas, runs flat, and depending on the direction, its horizons seem endless – perhaps creating the illusion of isolation.
The small Gulf Coast city, however, is very much connected and not just to nearby Houston. Baytown boasts a thriving petrochemical and manufacturing hub that is linked to a larger set of communities dotting the Gulf Coast. It’s an industrial ecosystem that is helping drive new jobs and infrastructure.
The regional growth is directly attributed to the availability of inexpensive natural gas, an important feedstock for much of what is produced along the Gulf Coast. The abundant supply, unlocked by advanced drilling techniques from within the geological shales throughout the country, is the building block for this vibrant economy.
Today, Baytonians are seeing new multibillion-dollar expansion projects that help bolster city tax rolls, create new jobs and sustain businesses, which in turn produce their own economic development ripples.
ExxonMobil’s footprint in Baytown, and along the Gulf Coast, for that matter, is not new; its longtime presence has laid the foundation for these impactful investments.
The Texas-based company is in the midst of a major initiative it calls the North American Growth Project, which constitutes the construction of an ethane cracker in Baytown and a polyethylene plant in Mont Belvieu. Local operations across those two towns already generate billions in economic activity for the region and employ thousands of people. Once completed, the expansion will further anchor the company’s presence in the area and drive renewed job growth.
In short, the North American Growth Project is the latest step in linking the two in a partnership that goes beyond host city and corporate citizen.
“The relationship has grown together,” said Mayor Stephen DonCarlos. “As ExxonMobil has grown, our city has grown.”
Today, old-timers still meet at Rooster’s Steakhouse & BBQ, a small cafe in historic Baytown that welcomes customers with the heavy scents of home-style cooking and a community bulletin board announcing local ongoings. The restaurant is only a few miles from ExxonMobil’s Baytown Olefins Plant, a facility that teems with workers arriving or leaving throughout the day.
Across town, hotels offer contractors free breakfast ahead of their day at the facilities. And, school buses join the morning traffic flow, with placards on their sides advertising driver openings to help deliver students in an ever-expanding school district.
That buzz of activity is not lost on city leaders. In fact, they celebrate it.
“We’ve always been very open to growth and expansion,” said Tracey Wheeler, president of the Baytown Chamber of Commerce. “It’s because we accept industry in our area. We don’t fight it – we try to be partners.”